Pivoting Out of Isolation
By Anya Deepak, WEN board member
We all remember how this year started. In our all-too-human shortsightedness, we forgot that the universe owes us nothing just because the year is a perfect-looking number on a calendar. And while 2020 was by no means uninteresting, we saw some extraordinary things happen at WEN — and it was all thanks to you.
Even for the most introverted among us, take everything away and we would still crave the connection we have with living beings. Isolation is not healthy, yet we all face it at one time or another. We can feel isolated in an industry; isolated because of our feelings; isolated due to the company we keep or don’t keep; isolated because of our ethnicity or nationality; isolated because our ties to the outside world are cut off.
But 2020 brought on a new wave of isolation. At the beginning of the pandemic, I wondered how we were going to replace the serendipity of water cooler moments we have with colleagues. So much collaboration and ideation happens in those moments. I found myself knee deep in research about keeping organizational culture alive while working remotely.
As some of you know, organizational development is my happy place — and my organization pays me to ponder ways to keep culture and engagement alive. But as I started filling my days with Zoom team lunches, stretch breaks, synchronous standups, and virtual coffees with randomly-paired coworkers, my thoughts often drifted to women who did not have anyone holding them up. In another decade, in another city, that was me.
Instead of an inbox full of emails, I waited for something — anything — to happen.
Instead of a calendar chock-full of Zoom meetings, my calendar showed only rent and the every-six-month dentist appointments.
Instead of feeling connected to my co-workers with socially-distanced birthday parties, my one human interaction was with the bus driver every morning as I “commuted” to the library to work on myself.
For some of you, this might not sound familiar. While you complain about homeschooling your kids, being barely able to keep up with your emails, or not being available to sign up as room parents because you are on the leadership teams of multiple nonprofits, you have to remind yourselves that everything can be taken away in an instant — your job, funding for your nonprofits, SCHOOLS!
What will remain though, and what makes us truly resilient, is what binds us together on a basic level — connection.
By late March the WEN board sensed a real need to connect with our membership, to check in and reaffirm that we were there for each other. We pivoted quickly to an online format and soon felt like we had been doing it this way all along. In 2019 we struggled to infuse our calendar with even one online event, and in 2020 we were expanding our offerings and diversifying our partners.
It felt like the pandemic was a big ball of opportunity, just waiting to be unraveled. We hosted an online storytelling salon and a career recruitment panel. Most exciting of all we initiated — with your invaluable input — a new mentorship series, WENtorship, which you’ve been telling us you wanted for quite some time. The year saw the hugely popular Hackathon 2.0 (our last in-person event before lockdown) fade quickly in the rearview mirror as bigger and better events with flexible formats, more room for growth, and the opportunity to learn in smaller groups took its place. That’s connection.
If you are a woman, femme/feminine-identifying genderqueer, or non-binary person who has been excluded from the environmental space, we are here for you. You just have to reach out and many supportive hearts will reach back to you. That’s connection, too.
Even when you don’t see us, we are here for you. Just like you have been here for us.
Thank you for making 2020 a success for us. Thank you for making us feel not isolated. We are always here, ready to return the favor. And while we wish you a happier 2021, this is not yet goodbye for the holidays. We have our final WENtorship 2020 event next week, and our blogs, Spotlights, Green Reads, and social media will keep the lights on through the holidays, should you need a little brightness.